Alumni profile - Janet Salem
BE Environmental Hons 2007, MEngSc 2008
Program Officer at UNEP the United Nations Environment Program
UNEP is the voice for the environment in the United Nations system, inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.
Why I chose engineering
I felt that the natural resources we depend on were not being managed well - perhaps not intentionally, but out of lack of the right people and knowledge in the right place. I decided I wanted to study engineering and see what I could contribute to the solution. Very happy to have done so. Having a technical understanding of water supply, waste management, industrial production, transport systems and environmental assessment methods means I can now talk substantively with policy makers and scientific experts about how to achieve environmental goals.
My job today
Day to day my job involves project management: coordinating the research and peer reviews, liaising with governments, fundraising and financial management, developing contracts for procurement, and communications – including organising outreach events. I have just moved from a position in Paris to Bangkok – to focus on policy support to countries in the Asia Pacific region.
How my degree benefitted me
It is great knowing that as an engineer you have the skills to help people and improve the way things work. One need only travel to India to see the transformative effect of a small dam on the farmers’ livelihoods in a water scarce area and the improved access to water for women and children who used to walk to carry it. Or see the health benefits and human dignity afforded by basic sanitation and water treatment. Or the pride of a community once a decent waste management system is in place to clean up their streets.
My advice to current or prospective students
Firstly, find out what really fascinates you and go in that direction. If you enjoy what you do, you will be good at it and people will want to work with you. Secondly, invest in yourself: do internships and keep learning, in addition to and after you finish your studies. Enjoy your time at university, it’s precious time to have fun and make friends you’ll have for life.